Get in Front of Readers’ Doubts and Objections

From Jane Friedman:

This is the one. This is the book that will help me help me solve my problem, get what I want, feel less alone, gain the advantage I need. This is the book that will help me finally do the thing.

When readers dive into a prescriptive nonfiction book, they have high hopes—and a healthy dose of skepticism. Will this book deliver on its promise? Will this work for me? Does this author know what they’re talking about?

As readers learn new concepts, gain knowledge, and consider acting on the author’s advice, doubts can grow into objections.

I don’t think this author gets it—or me. These ideas are outdated. This approach is not doable.

And when unaddressed doubts and objections stack up, they can become spoken criticisms of the book and the author.

“This book is a total disappointment. The author is out of touch. I’m better off using Google to get the answers I need.”

Ouch. So what happened to the readers’ hopes?

At the heart of nearly all reader doubts, objections, and criticisms is self-doubt.

I could do the thing! Can I REALLY do the thing? I don’t think I can do the thing.

In my work with authors, I emphasize the importance of putting the reader first at every stage of the writing and editing process, in every chapter and on every page. This includes considering and respecting the readers’ journey through the book. What is it like to learn these concepts for the first time? Where might they freak out? Where have I asked too much of them—or too little? Then, authors edit the book to address doubts, manage objections, and prevent criticisms. This helps a reader feel seen and understood. They start to trust the author. They keep reading. And they are more likely do the thing.

When readers do the thing, they get results. When they get results, they tell everyone about your book. And this time they say, “I love this book. You have to read it. I feel like this book was written for me.”

The best time to get in front of readers’ doubts and objections is during the editing stage, after you have a complete first draft. If your reader is an earlier version of you, start by thinking about how you felt going through the same process you share in your manuscript. For example, in his book, Profit First, Mike Michalowicz asks readers to complete an “Instant Assessment” of their business finances. After we wrote that section, I asked him about the first time he looked at his numbers in the same way. Mike said, “It felt like someone dropped a bucket of cold water on my head. I wanted to give up.”

If Mike wanted to give up after looking at his Instant Assessment results, the reader might feel the same. So we wrote some content that acknowledged the experience could be a shock, shared Mike’s own experience with it, and lifted them up with some “arm over the shoulder” encouragement. If we had left the task in the book as-is, without getting in front of readers’ potential doubts and objections, many of them would put his book down—forever. More importantly, they would not get the promise his book delivers, the thing they wanted most.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman